Social Recruiting When Social Is Your Business: Q&A with Sprout Social’s Jim Conti

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Sprout Social’s Director of Talent reveals what social recruiting looks like when social is, quite literally, your business.

Jim Conti, Director of Talent at Sprout Social

(Courtesy: Sprout Social)

Jim Conti is the Director of Talent at Sprout Social, a company whose products help businesses manage social media engagement, publishing, and analytics. We got on a call to discuss how the company uses social media-based intelligence gathering, employee advocacy, and community building to find and attract talented people.

“We’re very intentional about not just blasting out jobs – we’re much more targeted.”

How does the talent team at Sprout Social practice social recruiting?

For Sprout, the concept of social recruiting contains a few different elements:

Intelligence gathering. In any given day, there are a million different things the talent team could do. Intelligence gathering tells us what we should do. Who we should be reaching out to, why, when, what is the messaging we need to use. We spend a fair amount of time utilizing data collection tools, including the Sprout Social platform, to pay attention to what’s happening within the tech startup ecosystem. Whether a company just got a round of funding, has made an exit, is doing layoffs – including companies in our market space, here in Chicago as well as more broadly.

Employment branding. We believe the recruiting process is a two-way street; it’s as much about the candidate choosing us as it is about us choosing the candidate. With that in mind, our social channels are one of the best ways for candidates to get insight into the company. It’s a chance for them to conceivably meet all 210 of our employees versus just the four or five they meet during the interview process. What does the day-to-day look like? Who are the types of people on the team? What does their experience look like? That includes our culture-driven Instagram account @sproutsocial and Glassdoor profile, and our primary social accounts on Twitter @SproutSocial and Facebook. Our talent team works closely with our social team to make sure the employment brand is an important part of what’s happening on our social channels.

Employee advocacy. We work to empower all of our employees to be active on social. Our product Bambu is an employee advocacy tool. It gives our employees timely, on-brand content both for their own personal consumption and for them to be able to share on their own social channels. I’m very proud that some of the most popular content that employees share includes job openings, accolades we’ve received, and news about the company. People are really proud to work here and want to invite others to come work here with them. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to put the word out that Sprout is hiring.

How do you determine what information to pay attention to in the torrent of data when you’re intelligence gathering?

We pay the most attention to brand keywords and accounts related to companies in our space, from either a talent perspective or a business perspective. It’s a case of trying stuff out to see if it gives us any useful intelligence. For example, does following another company’s Twitter handle give us useful information? How about using Boolean search logic to track keywords around tech layoffs – ‘layoffs +startup’, or ‘layoffs +software’ – and geo-targeting that to the region our office is in? Or tracking terms like ‘ipo’, ‘acquisition’, ‘exit strategy’ – terms that could be related to a company experiencing big changes?

For weeks you might not have anything useful coming in. You want to build the system so that it can run on its own, but when something actually happens, it triggers you. That’s something that we talk a lot about with our social media team internally. They help us make sure we’re paying as much attention to what’s going on in the social sphere as possible, with the least energy going into that process as possible.

How do you act on the intelligence?

That’s one of the things that my team is paying a lot of attention to right now. It’s not just the intelligence gathering itself, but what you do when you actually get useful intel. How do you take action on it as quickly as possible?

Part of it is that you want to learn from past experiences and lay a framework so that the next time you get the same trigger you can replicate that past process and get the most gain from the opportunity. For example, not long ago we learned a local company was doing layoffs. We knew that our CTO was connected to them, so we had him reach out and say, “hey, we know you’re experiencing this – are there any folks that are looking for jobs that we can talk to and maybe help out?” It worked really well. Now when we see layoffs happening in other companies, we look for where our C-suite is connected to their C-suite, so we can do that kind of outreach.

“It’s not just the intelligence gathering itself, but what you do when you actually get useful intel.”

How do you encourage and activate employee advocacy, especially around recruiting?

We’re very intentional about not just blasting out jobs – we’re much more targeted. Using Bambu, we target specific teams, we give context into what the role is, what information might be most relevant, and we suggest content and copy they can then modify to sound like their own voice. Also, at our company all-hands meetings, our talent team stands up, talks about roles that we’re hiring, and answers questions from employees. And then, of course, this all pairs with our referral bonus program.

So it isn’t us shouting, “post this, post this, post this.” It’s us saying, “you posting this job and getting this type of person in the door is going to do these things for the company, help us collectively get here as a team, and you get a referral bonus, too.”

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions or misfires around social recruiting?

It goes back to recruiting being a two-way street, where candidates are as much choosing us as we are choosing them. Too many recruiters are just doing the ask. They’re using social to go out and say “hey, look at this job, apply to this job. Hey, do you have any referrals you can send me?” They’re doing nothing to build community and relationships. It’s a total miss.

Social is so powerful for building relationships with people. So you’ll see that our social accounts at Sprout are as much about sharing job postings as they are about sharing company news, and thought leadership from within this space where we’re building products that are helping businesses harness social as a meaningful communication avenue to connect with their followers and customers. When you see that coming from a social profile, it 1) gives a much more rounded picture of who that person is or who that company is, but 2) makes it seem like there’s an actual person behind the account.

There’s also so much opportunity in making it easy for your employees to interact with your brand on social. For example, I recently tweeted about how our office manager bought Star Wars tissue boxes for the office. Sprout Social retweeted that because it gives insight into the team and the fun that we have here. It’s a small thing, but it gives the brand a much more human side, and that can be meaningful to employees and candidates.

What’s the first step talent teams can take to start practicing social recruiting? Not the one-way “look at this job” style of social recruiting, but the relationship-based, community-building approach?

The first step is to look for your internal partners or champions. Whether that’s a member of the content marketing team, or maybe someone in sales who’s great at social selling, or a member of the brand team who loves the employment brand. Start to find those allies who believe in it and who already have the skills to do it better and faster than you might.

Next, I challenge any member of a talent team – talent acquisition, retention, HR – to think about what you’re most interested in, and start building your social presence by finding content and sharing information that relates to that passion. Interact with those communities you’re comfortable with first. From there, you can start to learn about and build out to other communities you want to connect with.

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand experience at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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